Jump In, the Water’s Fine

If you’re leery about chemical exposure, taking a swim in a chlorine-treated pool feels about as safe as diving head-first into the shallow end. And while swimming in a lake can be a real treat, finding a clean one these days is not so easy.

So what’s a water lover to do? Increasingly in Europe and the U.K., the answer is natural pools, which rely on plant-based self-cleaning water systems rather than chemicals. Imagine a cross between the

Discuss natural swimming pools at the Home conference in Café Utne’s: cafe.utne.com

old swimming hole and a water park. Divided into separate areas for swimming and water quality regeneration, natural pools can feature diving platforms and racing lanes along with water plants selected for their ability to leach out potentially harmful toxins.

The plants are so effective at keeping the water clean that when natural pools–also known as swimming ponds–are equipped with a system of special filters and skimmers, they meet strict European Union guidelines for cleanliness in public pools. ‘More and more communities, leisure centers, and hotels in Europe are installing the combined swimming and natural pool,’ writes British landscape architect Michael Littlewood in Permaculture (#26). ‘It also makes more sense to transform outdoor pools into bio-swimming pools than to renovate them at high cost.’

And swimming ponds can be less expensive to build and maintain than standard swimming pools, Littlewood explains. The Austrian-based company Biotops has built more than 1,000 swimming ponds in Europe alone. And the finished product is often easy on the eyes, with beautiful plants edging clear, open water.

Littlewood, who for the past 10 years has based his landscape architecture practice on ‘holistic ecoprojects,’ says natural pools do more than help the environment; they can also lift your spirits. ‘If you are living a holistic lifestyle, eating organic produce, using alternative medicine, drinking spring water, then it makes sense to avoid swimming in a pool containing chemicals,’ he writes, adding that ‘to be able to swim in natural water is sheer bliss.’ sheer bliss.’

Discuss natural pools in the Home forum at Cafe Utne: cafe.utne.com

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